In a high-impact precision air strike that lasted under 21 minutes, the Indian Air Force flattened the oldest training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in Pakistan's Jaba Top near Balakot area in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The IAF struck two more places in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, where it had reliable intelligence inputs about terrorist hideouts.
In a synchronised operation, fighter and other aircraft took off from several airbases at the Western and Central commands around the same time, leaving the Pakistani defence confused about where they were heading, sources said.
How did the operation pan out?
A report in India Today detailed how multiple aircraft were deployed at the same time from various airbases. Around 3.30 am, 12 Mirage 2000 aircraft of the Tiger Squadron took off from the Gwalior airbase in batches. Meanwhile, an early warning jet of the IAF took flight from Bathinda and a Embraer AEWS IAF mid-air refuelling tanker from Agra. IAF also deployed Sukhoi 30 MKIs from the Halwara and Bareilly airbases, which acted as decoys and were also meant to provide cover if the Mirages were intercepted.
Heron Surveillance Drones were also used to photograph the attack and the target sites, Hindustan Times reported.
AWAC (advanced warning and control system) aircraft led by the indigenous Netra jets played a significant role in the IAF operation, as well. Their radars pinpointed the position and activity of Pakistan fighter aircraft on all their bases and gave the go-ahead to the Indian planes to get a window to penetrate Pakistani airspace.
The Mirage 2000s were armed with 500- to 1000-kilogramme laser-guided bombs whose specialty is to hit targets even in darkness.
The pilots of the Mirage 2000 conducted final checks on the targets and waited for clearance from the command centre to proceed, after which the jets flew across LoC at a low level and used laser pods, a targeting system with a laser beam that can calculate the range to a target, to 'paint' the target with precision. Finally, the Mirage 2000s dropped their payload — either Crystal Maze missiles or SPICE 2000 smart bombs — at the targets.
A timeline of the air strikes
The probable timeline of the surgical strikes suggests that the entire operation was executed within 30 minutes, and the attack, including crossing over to the other side of the border and returning to Indian airspace, was achieved in under 21 minutes.
The IAF jets struck Jaish-e-Mohammad's oldest base camp in Balakot around 3.45 am and then hit another location in Muzaffarabad around 3.48 am. They finally dropped their final payload at Chakoti around 3.58 am, before safely crossing back into Indian territory.
Pakistan Airforce's F16s were scrambled to respond to the Indian incursion, but being outnumbered and gauging the formation of the Indian jets, the Pakistani airplanes beat a hasty retreat, thereby giving the Indian jets an opportunity to destroy their intended targets. After the planes returned from Pakistan, the Indian air defence systems were on high alert and scanning the Indian airspace for any Pakistani aircraft that may have flown in as part of any retaliatory hit.
The first Pakistani reaction came in from the western sector in Gujarat, when an unmanned aerial vehicle believed to be of the Pakistan Air Force entered Kutch. The drone was promptly shot down by the Israeli made SPYDER Missile defence system, which fired a well-aimed 'Derby' missile to blow the PAF drone out of the sky.
The navy had also halted its exercise TROPEX on the western seaboard and sent its warships on forward patrol in a posturing towards the Pakistan Navy, further confusing the chain of command in the Pakistani establishment.
Moreover, the Indian Army has been placed on high alert as an attack by Pakistan's Border Action Teams could be considered an imminent threat. Top sources in the government have termed the aerial strikes as one of the most successful coordinated operations as the targets were identified and selected by intelligence agencies while the three forces coordinated very well with them to strike the enemy.
With inputs from ANI
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Updated Date: Feb 27, 2019 10:24:54 IST